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Some kids are notoriously picky eaters, and serving them a food as unique as eggplant may seem like a daunting task. Eggplant has many nutritional benefits, however, making the task worth the effort. Grilling provides an easy, quick method of cooking eggplant, allowing you to devote more time to serving it creatively.
Benefits of Eating Eggplant
Eggplants have relatively few calories, averaging around 30 per cup of diced eggplant. In spite of its few calories, eggplant contains high amounts of fiber, which promotes digestive health, and numerous minerals and vitamins. For example, magnesium helps regulate the body temperature and the formation of healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin B6 regulates blood sugar and makes antibodies. Vitamin B6 also makes hemoglobin that carries oxygen in red blood cells to the tissues in your body. Nasunin, an antioxidant, has antiviral and antimicrobial properties that help keep your family healthy.
If ripe, leave the oxidant-rich skin on while cooking. If over-ripe, peel the skin before cooking. The flesh of a ripe eggplant gives when gently pressed but bounces back, while an over-ripe eggplant will not bounce back. Slice the eggplant and salt generously. Salting, or "purging," pulls the bitter flavors from the juice and prevents the eggplant from absorbing too much cooking oil. Brush the slices with a consistent layer of oil in order to avoid sticking. Grill over medium heat to ensure thorough cooking and prevent charring. Finished eggplant should have a soft, mushy center when pressed.
Introducing Eggplant to Kids
As with any new food, some kids take to eggplant more readily than others. If your children generally have picky tastes, introduce eggplant slowly yet persistently for best results. Serve a small slice of grilled eggplant alongside foods your children do enjoy. Instead of forcing them to eat an entire serving, allow them to nibble at it. Continue serving eggplant to your children over the course of several meals, gradually familiarizing them with it. Set a good example by letting them see you eat and enjoy your own serving of eggplant.
Simple Serving Suggestions
After grilling, use small cookie cutters to cut the eggplant into kid-friendly shapes, like stars or hearts. Hide thin slices of eggplant in sandwiches containing other ingredients, like shredded chicken. Alternatively, try masking the taste by pairing the eggplant with sauces or dips your kids enjoy. Tomato sauce serves as a common accompaniment to eggplant and contains additional doses of vitamins C, A and B6, along with additional fiber. Consider melting some shredded cheese, such as mozzarella, cheddar or Swiss, over the eggplant just before removing from the grill.
- Fresh for Kids: Eggplant
- CBS News; Grilling Eggplant; Brian Dakss; Nov. 2009
- Fine Cooking; How to Cook Eggplant to Tender, Silky Perfection; Ayla Algar
- Recipe Tips: How to Cook Eggplant
- The University of Mississipi; Introducing New Foods; 2006
- Pediatric Center of Round Rock; Eggplant is an Ideal Vegetable for Growing Children; Marta Katalenas; July 2010
- Photo Credit Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images